Business Support

Technical expertise coupled with business savvy is a winning combination – here’s some support that can help promote, protect and win new business.

Over 7,500 businesses across the UK have aligned themselves with The Motor Ombudsman – the independent and impartial Ombudsman to the automotive sector, and the largest Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider specific to the motor industry. The Motor Ombudsman reviews around 15,000 cases annually, accepting more than 6,000 cases for assessment by their dispute resolution team.

From less than £19 per month, accreditation to The Motor Ombudsman offers a variety of benefits for independent garages. The first to mention is the exclusive use of the body’s logo, and that of the Approved Code from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). Graham Clark, Managing Director at Anderson Clark Motor Repairs, an independent garage based in Inverness, that has been adhering to the body’s comprehensive Service and Repair Code for many years, explains on The Motor Ombudsman website that accreditation assists them with their credibility and the customer’s perception of their brand locally.

Garages have a bespoke profile on its online Garage Finder, to help drive additional customer leads and bookings. Here, customers can also leave a first-hand review of their experience.

Accreditation grants access to The Motor Ombudsman’s dispute resolution team, to acquire independent and impartial guidance and information at any stage of a consumer complaint. This is coupled with the ability to signpost customers to the body to help conclude disputes swiftly and fairly if it has not been possible to do this directly in the first instance.

This is echoed by Charlotte Clarke, pictured above, Business Manager at Clarks4Landys, the Land Rover specialist based in Shropshire, who said in her recent “TMO Talks To” interview with The Motor Ombudsman that it was “a no brainer” to become accredited, as it offers peace of mind for them and their customers, that they have access to a free and impartial dispute service resolution in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong with the work and service they have provided.

Members receive regular communications on key motor industry developments as well as invitations to online webinars with expert speakers throughout the year to hear about some of the latest trends. Topics covered have ranged from electric vehicles and MOTs, to consumer vulnerability and the influence of social media.

To help drive custom to its accredited network, the body invests in marketing and PR initiatives throughout the year, including the Garage Star Awards, which will once again be open for customer nominations on 6th September 2022. This is an opportunity for businesses to have their achievements in the spotlight, and to gain public recognition for going above and beyond to assist consumers.

Independent garages can apply for accreditation to The Motor Ombudsman by visiting www.TheMotorOmbudsman.org/garages/tmo-accreditation

Independent Garage Association update: Securing access to data andonline booking system…
The Independent Garage Association offers both technical and business support to its members to assist in the day to day running of a business, delivering technical help, advice on general legal and employment law, guidance on industry standards as well as assistance on marketing and business development.

Head of Member Services, Frank Harvey, told autotechnician of one new business tool in the pipeline; “Trust My Garage, the IGA’s nationally recognised consumer code scheme, will be launching its own online booking and job estimate website later this year. This service will provide consumers with a skim free, reputable alternative to the current plethora of aggregator sites, while bringing more customers than ever to members’ doors at no extra cost.”

The ability to gain access to secure data is also being addressed. IGA Chief Executive Stuart James recently finalised plans in the US with the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) which already has security and key coding information for many vehicle manufacturers, to bring their system to the UK, which will allow verified independent garages access to establish and maintain access to security level vehicle information to certified garages. “Securing access to information for the independent sector has been a very long drawn out challenge, and it is now more important than ever with advances in technology that the independent sector can continue to access this information,”said Stuart. “Consumers must have the freedom to choose where to maintain and repair their vehicles and GarageSafe provides a pioneering solution, taking another step forward in quality and reassurance for consumers who choose a reputable independent garage.”

GarageSafe will be launching in the UK and available to IGA members later this year.

www.independentgarageassociation.co.uk

Unlock upsell opportunities through educational tool…
Castrol has launched a YouTube channel to guide motorists on how best to select the right oil for their car or motorcycle and explains the benefits of using premium lubricants. The new YouTube channel can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/c/CastrolUK_EN/featured

The videos can be easily uploaded to workshop websites, help to explain the differences between various oil grades, and outline how they have been formulated to protect engines during stop-start traffic, high speeds, and extended mileages between servicing.

The creation of Castrol’s new YouTube channel follows recent publication of a nationwide survey into vehicle maintenance trends. Significantly for vehicle workshops, it found that 32% of car owners preferred a mechanic to check their vehicle’s oil level because they believed they would do a more effective job.

Of those who didn’t typically check the oil level themselves, 49% said they have never checked the oil level of their car’s engine (for their current car or any previous car), while 19% didn’t know how to check the oil level of their current vehicle.

Almost a third (32%) of all respondents said they’ve never topped up the engine oil for their current car or any previous car.

Castrol recommends that oil checks are conducted monthly, but the survey found that 70% of car owners checked their vehicle’s oil level less frequently. 19% said they only check their engine oil if a warning light comes on, and only 27% of all respondents were aware that damage may already be occurring at this point.

Shailendra Gupte, Marketing Director EMEA, said: “Our new YouTube channel has been created to inform UK drivers about the benefits of using premium quality lubricants to protect their vehicle’s engine. This unlocks the opportunity for more workshops to sell premium products to drivers who visit for routine vehicle checks and maintenance, who might otherwise opt for a cheaper alternative.”

“Our new videos can be easily embedded into the servicing page of a dealer or workshop’s website, helping them shape understanding of premium lubricants at the booking stage. These engaging videos also offer easy-to-follow, step-by-step guides on basic vehicle maintenance, which can be recommended by mechanics to maintain vehicle health in between routine MOT and servicing appointments, harnessing trust in the Castrol brand.”

Joining the network

The Castrol Service Network supports independent workshops who are committed to providing professional, quality maintenance and repair, offer great customer service and who want to align themselves with a trusted brand to showcase their professionalism and stand out from the crowd.

Business support for the network includes: a workshop listing on the Castrol website, Castrol Service signage, product stands, online training and technical advice, workshop clothing, Castrol engine warranty for customers and website/social media digital branding. Our Technical Editor Rob Marshall spoke to garages looking to join the network in the May issue, check the magazine archive on www.autotechnician.co.uk if you missed this. He met Roop Mathrau head of independent German car specialist BMWillenhall of Walsall, pictured left, who had been considering the benefits of being a Castrol Service member for several months. ‘Speaking to AT, Mr Mathrau explains that a Castrol partnership has reputational benefits, considering the blender’s OE partnership with both BMW and MINI. He also feels that the association helps to reinforce his dealer-level professionalism. As the impressive premises are not permitted to display BMW trademarks, he views Castrol’s £3,000 investment in signage and dual-branded clothing as the main attraction. Access to Castrol’s technical support is also a notable inducement, even for a marque expert. For instance, as certain older M-series performance BMWs have very targeted oil specifications, and many of BMWillenhall’s customers are discerning enthusiasts, having Castrol’s support helps cut the time required to research the right oil for the correct application.’

Find out more at www.castrol.co.uk/autotechnician or call 0800 371 910 (Option 4).

Business Support

Recent events have placed a greater pressure on dealers to claw back aftermarket servicing & repair work but by using the wealth of business and technical support available, independents can continue to champion a personal and professional first-rate service to motorists. We overview a few resources making a difference to both workshop owners and technicians.

As the largest and oldest trade body representing UK independent garages, the Independent Garage Association (IGA) supports members with the day-to-day challenges and larger complexities of running a garage business, while ensuring that the sector’s voice is heard at Government level.

IGA members have access to a wealth of services, advice and resources. Their dedicated helpline provides expert advice on any automotive or business-related issue, including HR and legal assistance, customer conciliation and arbitration, access to subsidised training, or help accessing digital service records.

Members receive regular communication via email, post and telephone about important industry updates, and are sent straightforward advice when new issues affecting the sector emerge, with topics ranging from new legislation to a worldwide pandemic.

The IGA works closely with Government departments to ensure that members have a voice at the highest levels.
Their MOT QC scheme is recognised by the DVSA and helps members avoid any potential issues in the event of a DVSA inspection. This is a bespoke service tailored to the members specific needs and can include help with disciplinary issues. The IGA’s Health & Safety package helps members comply with the latest H&S legislation, protecting their staff and business from risk, substantial fines or even business closure.

Members can join‘Trust My Garage’, the IGA’s nationwide consumer assurance scheme that acts as a badge of quality for independents. The scheme is approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and backed by TV advertising, giving local garages a national profile.

A number of commercial services are available through the association at discounted rates. Their newest addition is a combined membership offer with ALLDATA Repair, which combines both subscriptions at a reduced annual rate and fixes the price for the next three years. A joint membership with Autodata Diagnostic & Repair is also available.

Garages interested in finding out more can call 01788 225 908, email enquiries@rmif.co.uk, or visit www.IndependentGarageAssociation.co.uk

The Motor Ombudsman says that supporting independent garages has always been an integral part of the service it provides to its UK-wide network of businesses, who commit to its long-established Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)-approved Motor Industry Codes of Practice.

The Ombudsman’s Business Services department provides information and guidance to workshops and has a fully impartial dispute resolution team who help to conclude disputes when it has not been possible to do this directly with a customer. As well as its online Business Support hub, The Motor Ombudsman issues regular communications to garages, outlining the latest motor industry and government advice to allow businesses to stay informed on subjects, such as MOTs and COVID-19. This is complemented by online webinars with expert speakers to hear about the latest trends and developments impacting the service and repair sector.

Regular marketing campaigns aims to drive additional custom to garages, one of these initiatives is the Garage Star Awards, which enables workshops to gain important recognition and exposure for going the extra mile when assisting customers. Autotechnician talks to winner Dukes AutoTech in the cover story, which begins on page 33.

Low cost and motor industry-specific training modules, which cover the key principles of important pieces of legislation that govern the day-to-day operation of garages, such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Regulations, are also available to its member network.

For more information about how to join The Motor Ombudsman, and view further benefits of accreditation, visit www.TheMotorOmbudsman.org/garages/tmo-accreditation

450 freelance vehicle technicians and MOT testers operate under Autotech Recruit.

Managing workflow…

Staffing is a major issue for many workshops at the best of times and recruitment and training are key to maximising productivity and profit. Autotech Recruit can help workshops improve their recruitment processes and enable workshops to buy in temporary help during busy periods and develop their existing workforce.

The Autotech Group has been supporting the aftermarket for over a decade through recruitment, training and, most recently, the creation of an intern-based Academy division, which will provide the industry with a much-needed skills boost.

Placing experienced temporary technicians into the industry is at the core of Autotech Group’s recruitment division. As a consequence of holidays, training, sick days, or just a lack of relevant skills, garages can take a daily financial hit, as a vacant vehicle ramp could be earning around £3k a week in profit. The firm reasons that spending a couple of hundred pounds a day on a temporary technician is a smart business decision.

While relatively unheard of 10 years ago, using vehicle technicians on a temporary basis has significantly grown in traction, and, in 2019, over 46,000 days were filled by Autotech Recruit contractors and has a robust screening process to ensure technician skills directly match client needs.

For technicians and MOT Testers, becoming a contractor can provide a more flexible way of working and can also increase their skill set. Last year, Autotech pledged to invest £170k in upskilling its 450-strong contractor network through an exclusive online training portal through OurVirtualAcademy. com, free MOT tester training, and electric/hybrid vehicle training within its custom built EV Training Suite. Open to both contractors and the entire industry, Autotech Training delivers IMI accredited electric/hybrid training from Level 1 to 4. Visit https://autotechrecruit.co.uk to find out more.

Technical support at your fingertips…

Garage Management System, TechMan, is empowering technicians with manufacturer vehicle data through a partnership with E3 Technical, adding to existing functions that help improve workshop efficiency and improve customer service. As of the 1st April, existing and new TechMan user logins benefit from instant access to data including service schedules, repair times, drawings, procedures, capacities, wiring diagrams and fault code diagnosis.

Leo Freebairn of TechMan said: “We’re constantly looking for new ways to boost workshop efficiency and having reliable vehicle data to hand is a big part of that. There’s now no need to waste time stepping away from a vehicle to head over to the office computer and contend with limited log-ins. With our unique integrated system, TechMan offers seamless access to vehicle data directly from job records and technician tablets.”

E3 Technical, which has recently been acquired by HaynesPro, provides full technical support for workshops. TechMan users can enter a vehicle registration number into their system for full access to E3 Technical data without the complication of monthly subscriptions and limited logins.

For more information about the TechMan Garage Management System, or to arrange a demonstration, call 01604 666 720, or visit www.techmangms.com.

Schaeffler is a technical partner and supplier of components and systems for original equipment fitment to vehicle manufacturers and delivers these same genuine parts and systems to the aftermarket within its LuK, INA and FAG ranges. The manufacturer’s philosophy is to provide everything a technician needs to carry out a successful, long lasting repair in one box – down to the last nut, bolt or washer.

Schaeffler informs technicians on the workings of its new technology, along with workshop best practice, tips and installation techniques through REPXPERT. Technical support, including live and online training, installation videos, service information and technical brochures, and its loyalty programme where members can redeem the bonus points found in most Schaeffler product cartons, can be accessed from www.repxpert.co.uk or the mobile app, which can be downloaded free of charge from the iOS or Google app store.

The app also provides free and instant access to the TecDoc catalogue and accompanying TecRMI library of vehicle manufacturer instructions and specifications related to the Schaeffler range of products.

Members can also redeem their bonus points for additional content, including P-codes, service schedules, diagnostics, steering geometries and torque values for non-Schaeffler- related systems. Points can also be spent in the Bonus Shop, which has a range of workshop tools, clothing and point-of- sale materials.

App users can search for vehicles by registration number or application, or for specific parts by OE, competitor and Schaeffler references. Users can also scan the barcode on any Schaeffler carton to see the full vehicle application, product and service information available for that specific repair. The DMF CheckPoint tool is also fully integrated into the app.

Castrol has partnered with in-tank remote monitoring specialists OilFox to provide an automated monitoring and stock replenishment service to customers.

The OilFox system uses sensors within the bulk tank to detect when stores of lubricant are running low, uploading data to an online stock management tool. Castrol is electronically alerted triggering an automated stock replenishment process. In addition, workshop managers can view their real time lubricant stock levels and historical consumption patterns via an intuitive online app.

“Workshop managers can effectively outsource oil stock management, and ensure they commit to spend for new stocks only when they really need to, says Paul Miller, Marketing Manager at Castrol Europe. “The only time spent on managing bulk tank oil stock will be reading delivery confirmation emails.”

The OilFox telemetry system also provides useful insight for forecasting purposes and lets larger workshop groups monitor bulk tank oil usage across multiple sites. Customers should contact their Castrol key account manager for more information.

The three vectors of value

By Andy Crook

Value can be defined as the importance, worth or benefit of something to someone. The ‘value’ of something is not a fixed commodity, for example, a barrel of water costs more than a barrel of oil in the Middle East. The importance of water and the life-giving benefits it provides places its ‘worth’ above oil in a region where oil is abundant and freshwater is not…

The three vectors of value can be classified as: Importance; Worth (Cost) and Benefit.

To start with, let’s think about how you perceive value in your own business. Consider your parts supplier, what do you value most about their service? Is it the price of the products, or the number of deliveries per day? If you had to choose between two suppliers what would add more value to your business? Price or the correct part supplied? ‘Value’ can be subjective if the job has no time pressure and the extra profit was worthwhile then the cost might sway your decision. But if the job could tie up a ramp for a day or two then getting the correct part might be of greater benefit.

If this is true when you are a customer (as is the case when dealing with your parts suppliers) then it must also be true for your customers. However, it is not easy to identify which vector of value is most important to your customers, because it changes all the time.

Perceived value
How do your customers perceive ‘value’ in the services you provide? Here are some examples for each of the value vectors…

Importance
Having a roadworthy and reliable vehicle is of great importance to some customers, to others, it is simply a legal requirement, they are required by law to have an MOT certificate. Customers who recognise the ‘value’ of quality parts and the increased longevity offered by regular servicing above and beyond the minimum requirements of the service schedule will appreciate it may take a little longer to do the job right and will not focus solely on the cost.


Offering different levels of servicing caters to the importance placed on servicing and maintenance by your customers. I have seen this done several different ways, but Bronze, Silver and Gold standards offer customers an obvious choice in this regard.

Worth
There is only room for one ‘cheapest garage’ in any town, so competing on price is never a great basis for adding value. There is always someone willing to do the job cheaper than you so leave them to it. Worth, in this case, may not be the cost, but the avoidance of unnecessary expenditure. Using air conditioning as an example (as the aircon season has started) just topping up the refrigerant in the system may cost less, but a full air con service that reveals a small leak which, once repaired, ensures the system continues working effectively, is a far better option. It may look more expensive, but it is cheaper in the long run.

Benefit
Sometimes the benefits of your offering compared to others is clear cut, you offer a courtesy car, for example, meaning the customer is still able to drive around while the work is carried out. However, the benefit isn’t always clear to the customer.

You use approved oils for each and every application, not just the closest match out of the two barrels at the back of the shop. You only use OEM or equivalent filters and have the ability to store electronic service records. These benefits are not so obvious to your customers.

Is your value obvious?
Ask yourself, is your ‘value’ obvious to your customers? Identify areas of hidden value and ensure you make customers aware of the value you add to the services which you provide.

It could be a simple report with the results of the air conditioning service – initial vent temperatures, the quantity of gas recovered, condition of the drive belt, etc. It could be leaving an air freshener in the car, but whatever you choose, you should make it obvious that you added value.


Communicating value
How do you communicate your ‘value’ to your potential and existing customers? This is not easy and is probably why so few businesses do it. Those that do are normally focusing on price. But what of the other value vectors? Offering a guarantee is one way to communicate ‘value’ without trying to compete on price. It suggests it is important for the garage to do the job properly, the extra cost is worth it because the work is guaranteed, and the benefits are obvious to the customer. Even if the guarantee is only what any customer would expect or is legally entitled to, the fact you make a point of offering one re-enforces the concept and adds value.

Providing more value
The easiest way to provide more value is to consider your customer’s needs and offer services that meet those needs.
Remember the three vectors – value can be importance, worth or benefit to the customer. For example, offering a collection and drop off service for customers – such a service could be very important to those customers who are shielding, beneficial to shift workers, and worth the extra cost to avoid paying for a taxi or bus.

Consider how many other services could you add value to for your customers, then design your services to
address the areas your customers value most.

Claiming Universal Credit and updates to HMRC’s Job Retention Scheme

Information supplied by A4G Accountants in West Kingsdown, Kent

The HMRC have issued the following updates for its Job Retention Scheme:  

1. The cut-off date for when an employee started with the employer has now been moved to the 19th March 2020.  This means if you took on a staff member on the 1st March under the original guidance you could not furlough them but now you can. It is expected that about 200,000 more people will therefore be brought into the furlough arrangements as a result.

2. More details have been announced about how the claims will be made. Large employers will be able to upload a csv or excel file to give employee details. It stated: “If you have fewer than 100 furloughed staff you will be asked to enter details of each employee you are claiming for directly into the system – this will include their name, National Insurance number, claim period and claim amount”.

3. Make sure you have a government gateway access as this will help ensure you can access the scheme.

Claiming universal credit

If you are a sole trader who has only just setup a new business, run a small limited company with no income or are out of work and not able to get a furlough payment, then this maybe the option you need to take to support yourself in the coming months.

Universal Credit is a benefit payment supplied by the government to help pay living costs for people in the UK who are on a low income or out of work, even if this is temporary due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

The basic payment could range from £357.69 to £594.04 per month depending on your age and if you are claiming as a cohabiting couple. But this is reduced by the amount of income you still have coming in and any capital you have in savings.  If you have savings of more than £16,000 then you will not be able to claim Universal Credits.

www.a4g-llp.co.uk

Help for owner-managers of limited companies

Article by A4G Accountants in West Kingsdown, Kent

In amongst the raft of help being provided by the government, there is one group for whom there is very little support; owner-managers of limited companies.

When the Chancellor announced help for the self-employed, there was no mention for this group. And it is a significant number of people. In 2014/15, the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimated that there were 1.8m people in this category and over half of them earned less than £50,000 (the limited set by government for helping the self-employed).

Most company owners structure their businesses by taking a small salary, paying Corporation tax on the majority of earnings and drawing dividends. Dividends are ignored for the purposes of support. Perhaps it is that structure which is the reason for there being so little help which is almost spiteful by its omission and is causing huge concerns for many of those people.

Our advice for those of you in that position would be to consider the following:

VAT deferral

If your business is VAT registered and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 (Feb 2020 quarter end) and 30 June 2020 (April 2020 quarter end) we have been advising clients on the option to defer the payment until a later date in order to help manage your cash flow. It has been confirmed that HMRC will not charge interest or penalties on any amount deferred. If you decide to defer your VAT payment, you must catch up your debt on or before 31 March 2021.

If you normally pay by direct debit you should contact your bank to cancel your direct debit as soon as possible or cancel this online if you are registered for online banking.

Please note you do not need to tell HMRC that you are deferring your VAT payment but if the DD is in place, they will collect it automatically. You do still need to fill the VAT returns, so don’t forget that bit.

Furloughing your small directors’ salary

Most directors take a tax-efficient salary of £715. If your company has no work for you to do other than basic statutory director responsibilities, you can furlough yourself and the company can claim back 80% of this cost. If you have a partner or spouse on the payroll this will double your entitlement (you will receive 80% of each salary rebated).

It would be usual for this amount to increase in April 2020 but abuses of this are likely to be challenged. Those whose companies are still trading but are concerned about how long that will be, need to consider very carefully their salary levels in April and beyond. Advice from your Principal Adviser is crucial in this situation.

Please see our guide to furloughing here: www.a4g-llp.co.uk/blog/furloughing-staff-guide

Company dividends

If your management accounts show you as a solvent company with retained profits, you are still able to draw dividends even if you are making no profit now. This will of course deplete your cash and affect your credit rating. That doesn’t stop you re-introducing all or part of it to the business as a director loan owed to you at a later date.

Personal mortgage holidays

For the majority of people, your mortgage will be your biggest outgoing each month. You should contact your mortgage lender to arrange a payment holiday. Even if you are able to continue making mortgage payments, it is worth taking advantage of the mortgage holiday to be able to put some money aside as a safety net, as we are unable to predict how long this will go on for and these holiday periods may get extended if this is to continue longer term.

Buy to lets

If you are also a landlord with a buy to let mortgage, even if your tenant is still able to continue making rent payments you should request a payment holiday. This will allow you time to increase your personal income and build a savings pot in case you hit future financial difficulty. It also safeguards you in case tenants are late to advise you on if they can’t pay.

Director expenses

Many directors are poor at keeping a record of their expenses and miss out on tax-free amounts. With time on your hands, ensure that you can claim for all your business expenses. This will then be money owed to you from the business tax free which will help maximise your personal income.

Personal saving tips

To save as much money as possible during Covid-19 it is important to maximise income and minimise spending. For more information and tips please see our article: reducing your personal expenses.

Applying for universal credits

Universal credit is a monthly payment to help with your living costs if you’re on a low income or out of work. To check if you are eligible and to apply visit Gov.uk. Please note there are queues within the application process, so the quicker you apply, the better!

Business banking overdraft

One of the quickest ways to get your hands on some extra funds will be speaking to your business bank about increasing your overdraft limit. If you are registered for online banking, most banks will allow you to apply for this online, otherwise simply give them a call to discuss your options and enquire about interest rates.

The advice from the government on the business interruption loans and the banking sector aren’t currently completely aligned, and the lending process and information required is mammoth. We are confident this will resolve itself over the next few weeks and this gives businesses the time to put a full plan together and get accounts up to date which will be required.

If you have business premises

Please refer to our previous article: reduce the impact Coronavirus has on your business’ cashflow.

As we are unsure just how long this pandemic will continue, it is important to plan long term, therefore if this ends quicker than expected, it will be a bonus!

www.a4g-llp.co.uk